Day 32 – Who is Serving Who?




While the two brothers in the parable have very different personalities and they have followed very different paths in lives, there are a lot of similarities between them.

While the younger son is addicted to pleasures and sinful activities, the elder son has clinged to status and personal achievements and is obsessed with following rules. Both are forms of slavery.

As the younger son demands his share of his father's property, the elder son slaves for his livelihood and inheritance, seeking compensation, rewards and praises from his father. He has mistaken his father's unconditional love and turned it into a transactional relationship. The younger son desires to be free and independent, while the elder brother desires another form of independence by demonstrating to his father that he is capable and loyal. In doing so, he tries to earn his reward and inheritance from his father. With a calculating mindset, he believes that the better his performance, the more rewards he deserves. And the rewards given by his father become his entitlement.

As the younger son took off to a distant country, the elder son lives in his own distant country even though he is physically home with his father. Both are wandering and are indeed very distant from the father's heart. Both are blinded and suffering from hardened hearts that prevent them from seeing and feeling their father's love. So, while it seems that only the younger son has forgone his identity as his father’s son, the elder son has also given up his identity by perceiving his father as the master of his own slavery.

Just as the younger son hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine (Luke 15:15), the elder son has hired himself out to his imaginary slave master, his father. Sadly, all three main characters of this parable suffer immensely because of the flawed mindsets, attitudes, behaviours and actions of the two sons. This parable has revealed the costly impact of a dysfunctional and broken family. The biggest victim is the father, who has essentially lost both of his sons, while he attempts to mediate between them. Although both sons are physically alive, they are spiritually dead.

When the elder son refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.

(Luke 15:28)

The father bent over backwards to plead with his son. His love for his son caused him to do anything he could to relate to his son and to restore the trust between them. Can you imagine how painful the father feels, seeing the enmity that divides his two beloved sons? Hastened to come out to check on his elder son, the father spoke from his heart to explain the situation to alleviate his son’s anger. With such animosity toward his brother, the elder son would need a long time for his frustrations to subside. We can imagine how long it would take the father to show empathy to his son and to appeal to him to reconcile with his brother. Jesus did not tell us the ending of the story, but that is beside the point.

The important message to us is that our PRIDE causes troubles not only for us, but for our Heavenly Father. He has to do a lot of work behind the scene to take care of the mess and mend the brokenness we have caused, as well as to smoothen situations and even to mediate between people for us. All this mess is a direct result of our abusing of the freedom gifted to us by God.

It is God who has worked miracles while we naively believe that things are under our control. It is as though God has become our servant as He helps us to take care of the things we cannot handle in life.

Can we begin to appreciate this God who lets nothing separate us from His love?


Do you believe that God's love cannot be earned, is not performance based, but is freely given to us as God's grace?

If someone has sinned against you, can you adopt the father's approach rather than the elder son's approach in treating them?

Witnessing how the father mediated between the two sons, do You believe that God's love for you is personal and attentive?


Dear Abba Father, the father in the parable of the lost son once again reminds me that nothing can separate me from Your love. I used to think that You would not go out of Your way to attend to all the details of my life. But Your personal and proven love has proved me wrong. If You did not spare Your own Son but handed Him over for us all, how would You not also give us everything else along with Him? If You do not condemn my sins, how can I not forgive anyone who has offended me? O God, grant me Your Heart so that I can be Your mercy to those around me. (Ref. Romans 8:32, 38-39)

I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

If you find this reflection helpful and have not registered to receive our daily email, we invite you to sign up here. If you have a Facebook account and would like to share your thoughts there, we invite you to join this Facebook group .

Sincerely invite you to share the reflections that inspires you by this day's retreat.